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Alabama Dram Shop Law

Posted on August 15, 2022

Drunk driving is a serious problem in Alabama and throughout the U.S. If you get injured in an accident involving a drunk driver, you may know that you can hold the driver responsible for your property repairs and medical bills through a car accident claim. You may not realize, however, that Alabama’s dram shop law also gives you the right to bring a claim against the establishment that furnished the driver with alcohol, in some situations.

Who Is Responsible for a Drunk Driving Accident in Alabama?

Driving under the influence (DUI) is an extremely dangerous driver behavior that greatly increases the risk of car accidents. It is a crime in Alabama that can come with significant criminal penalties, as well as a lawsuit brought against the drunk driver to compensate a crash victim for his or her medical bills and property damage. Drivers who are impaired by alcohol or drugs are more likely to be reckless behind the wheel, such as by speeding, racing, red-light running and weaving between lanes. This can lead to catastrophic and deadly automobile accidents.

According to data collected by Drive Safe Alabama, a total of 5,263 drivers were suspected of alcohol or drug impairment in 2019. Tragically, 210 people lost their lives in car accidents involving impaired drivers. Although it is a driver’s responsibility to prevent accidents and ultimately his or her decision to drive drunk, many states have laws in place that allow crash victims to seek compensation from third parties in certain scenarios. The third party could be a dram shop or social host, depending on state law.

What Is Alabama’s Dram Shop Law?

A “dram shop” refers to any commercial establishment that sells alcoholic beverages to consumers. Common examples include restaurants, bars, clubs and taverns. Many states have laws in place that hold dram shops liable, or legally and financially responsible, for drunk driving accidents and other injuries caused by their intoxicated patrons. Alabama is one of them.

According to Alabama Code Section 6-5-71, anyone who is injured as a consequence of an individual’s intoxication shall have a right of action for damages against anyone who sold, gave or otherwise disposed of an alcoholic beverage that caused the intoxication of the person. The key part of this statute is that furnishing the alcohol must have been done “contrary to the provisions of the law.”

Under Alabama’s dram shop law, an establishment that provides alcohol to someone who then goes on to cause a drunk driving accident or another type of injury – such as assault – can be held responsible for the intoxicated individual’s actions. The dram shop will only face liability, however, if it or one of its employees furnished the culprit with alcohol in a way that went against the law.

Two main situations constitute illegally furnishing someone with alcohol: serving someone who is underage (the legal drinking age is 21 in Alabama) or serving someone who is visibly intoxicated. If one of these wrongful acts can be proven, a victim of a drunk driver can recover compensation from the driver’s insurance company as well as the dram shop.

When Can a Social Host Be Held Responsible for a DUI Accident in Alabama?

Businesses and establishments are not the only ones that can face third-party liability for an intoxicated individual’s harmful actions. Alabama also has a social host liability rule. Similar to the dram shop law, this rule can hold a homeowner or the host of a party liable for giving someone alcohol in a way that goes against the law.

If a host knowingly serves a minor alcohol, for example, and then the minor causes a DUI accident, the social host could be held responsible. A social host will not face liability for overserving an adult alcohol, however, no matter how visibly intoxicated the adult was. A host also will not be liable if he or she was not the person who provided the minor with alcohol. Simply being the owner of the property where the party took place will not automatically result in liability.